Arsenal’s revamp finally captures the excitement about a club that feels alive again

In an exhibition space half an hour’s walk from the Emirates, figures from Arsenal’s past and present were shown the club’s new face. The exterior of their home will soon be decorated with eight new artworks created in collaboration with supporters, replacing images that have welcomed visitors for more than a decade, and scaled-down versions of the installations will be on display.

Anyone can imagine themselves as an art critic, but Charlie George, Kenny Sansom, George Graham, Bob Wilson, David Seaman, Ian Wright, Jack Wilshere, Vic Akers, Anita Asante and Rachel Yankey are the legacy they each left.

Some of those who run the modern machine were also there. Arriving early, Martin Ødegaard was seen working in the room: for the captain of the Premier League leaders, who was generous and sincere, that five minutes was not a necessity. There were fans in the room and no one felt left out. A simple but not infrequent observation was that they would certainly not make an effort among Arsenal’s last captains.

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Ødegaard’s relief and the event itself felt symbolic. Arsenal retreated into their shell as their early 2000s successes faded, and despite all the success of promoting the brand internationally, elements of the messaging felt imperative. Meanwhile they weren’t bidding close enough to home but that has changed. While transformation must be supported by continued success, Arsenal feels alive, relevant, extroverted and more at ease with its identity than it has ever been in the past fifteen years.

This applies both on and off the field. Arsenal will visit Tottenham on Sunday and while their opponents have yet to win at their new home, only one of the teams really knows who he is. It was striking when Mikel Arteta asked what position he expected the Spurs to take and admitted he couldn’t be sure. “Sometimes they approach games in different ways. Sometimes they are very aggressive from the start and sometimes they let you do the game.”

The element of surprise can and can be advantageous. But the point is, everybody knows what Arsenal will bring. Game patterns are welcome; So is the fact that they will run like trains. More and more allegiance with these things is the feeling that they will find a way. Eight months ago Arsenal lost this match 3-0 and left resentful to both himself and the authorities. What is the difference now? “We’re winning more games,” Arteta said with a grin. “That’s what changes everything and I think we’re playing better.”

A fragment from the new Emirates drawing showing former players next to a ball.

The unveiling of scaled down versions of the new artwork felt like emblematic of Arsenal’s growing sense of identity. Photo: Arsenal FC

He thinks right. Arsenal are stylish, dominant, increasingly savvy and the lack of a younger squad in the top flight doesn’t hurt their image. With an average age of 24.3 and Arsenal’s 24.1, only the last-placed Southampton are particularly close. Determined as field leader, Ødegaard turned 24 in December. It’s a side that can talk to younger people: whether it’s the knowledgeable, friendly Ødegaard speaking, conversation buzz on London’s five-on-five pitches thanks to an academy product like Bukayo Saka, or a young Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli breaking ground for hopefuls more than 8,000 miles away. .

Catching that freshness was among the reasons Arsenal renewed the Emirates, which kicks off this month. The previous mural, which no incoming fan could miss, depicted 32 former players huddled around the pitch. He looked protective, close, smelled of togetherness, and each figure had their backs to the outside world. But the ground no longer feels like a quiet, brooding, isolated place: Since the Covid-19 lockdowns ended, it has felt loud, boisterous, and often really hostile to opponents, in part encouraged by a young element called the Ashburton Army, which has banded together in black. Behind the End of the Hour. Where there were once protests over the club’s role in the Super League gang, Arsenal is making a positive tone.

That was supposed to be the case for Tottenham when they finally played at their new home in April 2019. To say that the Spurs have failed to compare since this move would be an exaggeration: They are the Champions League and Arsenal are not. and they have an excellent ability to win the derby again.

Fans have little trouble creating their own volumes. There hasn’t been an away win in any league game between these clubs since Arsenal won at the old White Hart Lane nine years ago. “The atmosphere has an input and it affects the game in some way,” Arteta said, upset by this curiosity. “I’ve gone over a few over the past few days trying to figure out why this is happening. It’s hard to come to some conclusions, but the atmosphere is important.”

But the feeling that Tottenham, the division’s third-oldest co-player group, and no obvious succession plan for Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who have done so much to gain an edge in North London, lacks Arsenal’s clear identity. Just as Emirates is starting to feel as tired as a clumsy team when it’s set up next to the sparkling new venue on Seven Sisters Road, there’s time for Arsenal to beautify their environment at this sweet spot.

There is no sign of Ødegaard or anyone else on the current Arsenal side in the new drawing. To give an example, there has been strong discussion for Saka’s participation, but there are no guarantees as to how an active player will be judged in the future. Many things can go wrong. There’s a lot to plan right now, and the challenge for this harvest is to consolidate their place in the next skin layer of the ground.

Arteta said, “The emotional state of the players is good. It felt like watching Ødegaard exchanging tales with those who walked before him and dwelling on the thoughts of his fans, who were used to seeing him holding games in the palm of his hand.

Breaking the pattern of home wins on Sunday would be further proof that the picture has completely changed for Arsenal.

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